Jason Park’s connection to culinary ingenuity began before he was even born. His grandmother, a native Korean, began experimenting with blending Japanese and Korean cooking styles after she studied in Japan. She passed on her techniques and recipes to her daughter, who did the same to a young Jason.
From a young age, Jason showed his affinity for gourmet food by dutifully watching international cooking shows and sounding a trumpet whenever he bit into a perfectly salted popcorn. During college at UCLA, he dabbled in biology and psychology before returning to his true passion for cooking. After spending the next few years honing his skills in the kitchens of restaurants in Los Angeles and Osaka, he opened the doors of his own establishment as the executive chef.
At Maru, Jason draws on his grandmother’s principles of culinary fusion as he blends the flavors and textures of French and Japanese fare. He assembles dishes that range from Mediterranean risotto to sushi rolls using an ever-changing assemblage of seasonal ingredients, which he hand-selects each week at the Santa Monica farmers' market. He also has fresh fish flown in overnight from Japan’s seafood markets.
To complement Maru's continent-spanning dishes, sommeliers assemble balanced lists of local California wines, imported French blends, and Japanese sakes.
At Ichiban Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar, each specialty roll reels in hungry visitors with a core of flavorful ingredients such as roasted eel, mussels, and spicy sesame sauce. Of the many rolls on the menu, the Box Sushi roll with seared tuna and spicy crab meat might be the most unique one, since it uses a Japanese wooden box instead of seaweed paper to achieve its classic tubular shape. In addition to rolling sushi, chefs also top donburi Japanese rice bowls with teriyaki chicken and curried beef. Even the appetizers are steeped in distinctly Asian flavors, from fried pork gyoza dumplings to veggies encased in a crispy tempura shell.
Mount Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan, so it's fair to expect a restaurant called Fuji Sushi to stack the rolls high. This place doesn't disappoint with its sushi platters, which come loaded with tuna, salmon, and specialty rolls. But sushi accounts for just a fraction of the menu here. The rest includes yakitori skewers, as well as sashimi. After dinner, hang around for a cup of italian coffee or green-tea ice cream freshly scooped out of a frozen kettle.
Behind the modest, wooden sushi bar of Momoya, chefs prepare more than 30 sushi rolls to send out to waiting tables. You might try the Tiger Lady, a mix of shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, cucumber, and eel sauce. Or the Lion Man—same deal, but with salmon tempura. Kiss, Volcano, To Die For. The list goes on, and it's full of crabmeat, baby lobster, black cod, and a whole lot more. Sprinkled among all these rolls are hot apps such as edamame and baked yellowtail collar. Lunch and dinner combos—served with miso soup, salad, and rice—let you pair up your favorites from a selection of teriyaki, tempura, and katsu dishes.
Small surprises abound inside Takenoya, where ice milk tea might contain sweet bites of mango jelly and one of the sushi rolls might arrive wrapped in soybean paper or cucumber rather than traditional seaweed. Those interested in eschewing surprises can build their own bento box, which compartmentalizes their chosen meals of chicken teriyaki, nigiri, or other specialties into neat squares alongside soup, salad, and rice. Savory noodles swirl amid shrimp tempura in the nabeyaki udon, one of several noodle dishes. The menu also includes traditional plates such as pork katsu, japanese curries, and korean short ribs.
The elaborate sushi listings showcase more than 25 signature rolls. The spicy tempura-lobster roll nestles its namesake ingredient against cucumber, avocado, sprouts, and smelt egg, whereas the summer fresh roll cocoons tuna, salmon, and yellowtail inside a cucumber shell. Four types of box sushi are prepared with a pressing box, which molds each bite into a tiny cube.
From a menu composed largely of specialty maki, the chefs of Umi Sushi craft more than 40 types of rolls that serve as tasty pairings to hot entrees and more than a dozen colorful appetizers. Diners can kick off meals with plates of crisp agedashi tofu and ponzu sauce, moving on to special rolls lined with barbecue short ribs or spicy crab and tuna. Meals can be complemented with sips of hot sake from the bar or cold, imported beer.